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Surprise Birthday Dinner 2014: Sushi Nakazawa

4 Sep

For all our couple holidays (birthdays, anniversaries, and Valentine’s Day), we trade off booking a surprise dinner to celebrate.  Over the past few years, Mike has surprised me with meals at Brooklyn Fare (amazing), Jean Georges (disappointing), Daniel (very good), Le Bernardin (great), and (our now #3 restaurant of all time and #2 in NYC) WD-50.

This year, we walked around the corner and we were standing in front of Sushi Nakazawa.


There is a documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, that follows the story of Jiro Ono, who is an 85-year-old sushi chef in Japan who is considered one of the world’s greatest.  His sushi restaurant is, curiously, in a subway station and yet it has a 3-star Michelin rating.  The documentary is amazing and it’s incredible to watch the detail that goes into that restaurant.  In the documentary, Daisuke Nakazawa is an apprentice who makes Jiro’s famous egg custard (the signature dish) for months and months to get it right.  They mention that most apprenticeships last 10 years. I had been hearing about this documentary, and the amazing restaurant that Chef Nakazawa opened this past June, for a long time. Just a few days prior to my birthday, I was also reading that the restaurant was nominated as one of the best new restaurants of the year by Bon Appetit.

The restaurant is clean and elegant with a beautiful sushi counter.  I was jealous of those that were able to sit and watch these magicians at work. (Sadly, this was another place with not enough light for photos to be as elegant as they actually looked, so please forgive the so-so photos).


We were set up with house-pickled ginger and a finger pinch cleaner.


What followed were 20 courses, plated two or three at a time, of some of the absolute best fish I have ever had.  Most pieces were just very, very good, while some were so stand-out and so unique that I just had to pause and take a moment of respect for just how damn good it was.

Our first plate had one of those.

Pink Salmon (right) and Smoked Chinook Salmon (left). That smoked salmon was absolutely incredible.  Full of flavor and it just popped in my mouth.  I was so incredibly impressed and I knew we were in for a wild ride if this was bite #2!


Then Sea Scallop (right) and Giant Glam (left). Both great.


Then Blue Emperor Fish (right) and Summer Flounder (left).


The pictures get a little confused, I’ll just lit the next few with our highlights:

Butterfish (OH that butterfish was good! )
Horse Mackerel
Aged Japanese Mackerel
Spearhead Squid


Then Amber Shrimp (closest) and Golden Striped Yellowtail (further away).  This shrimp tasted like lobster. I didn’t know that was possible. It was unbelievably good.


My list then says we had Smoked Japanese Bonito, which, like the other smoked dish, was amazing.  Sadly, I have 3 fish in this next picture, which makes me think that this photo belongs above. At this point, however, it’s all pretty much looking the same to you, dear readers, so just go with it? (thanks)


We were then served a fun selection of tuna. From right to left: Lean Bluefin Tuna, Soy Marinated Lean Bluefin Tuna, and Fatty Bluefin Tuna.  I had trouble deciding which one I liked most, but I think the fatty one won in the end.


And then… it happened.  On the right, Sea Urchin Santa Barbara (which had truffle on it) and Soy Marinated King Salmon Roe.


That sea urchin… WOW.  I will be chasing that Uni dragon for the rest of my life.  I usually could take or leave it, but this was out of this world.  I was blown away.


Then sea eel (right) and Nakazawa’s version of the infamous egg omelette (left).




We then stopped to take an annual birthday photo before deciding on just one more bite…


It was back to the uni. This was a slightly different version, and not quite as good, but still incredible.


Then we ended with a very nice birthday treat of shiso leaf sorbet with raspberries.  A lovely final touch.


This meal seems so simple, yet it was so incredibly good.  I have had a number of great omikase meals, but this one was absolutely special.  The smoked salmon, the butterfish, the amber shrimp, the smoked bonito, and then that uni… wow.  All of those packed such an amazing amount of flavor and originality that they really soared this meal to a whole different planet.

More please.

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

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